This Sunday marks the first anniversary of the Women's March that happened on the day after Donald Trump's inauguration—the largest protest march in our nation's history. The Sierra Club was there that day, and we'll be there this year, too—at a significant moment for women's rights and justice.
Some people still ask whether "rights and justice for women" qualifies as an "environmental issue." In their minds, the Sierra Club, as an environmental organization, should stick to a prescribed list of issues that are "environmental" and otherwise mind its own business.
I have two responses to this: one specific and one more general. First, women's rights are absolutely an environmental issue. Among our most basic human rights are the ability to breathe clean air, drink clean water and live in a healthy environment. Toxic pollution and climate disruption threaten those rights for everyone, but the consequences often fall hardest on women. After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, for instance, 80 percent of those left behind in the Lower Ninth Ward were women. For women, exposure to toxic pollution, the risk of sexual violence and the denial of basic reproductive healthcare are not discrete threats; they are a knotted pattern of injustice that must be disentangled and eradicated.
The more general problem, though, is this notion of "issues." Yes, the Sierra Club tackles social justice and environmental issues, but our work would be meaningless if it were not motivated by something deeper: values.
Our values are fairly simple. We believe in justice, equality and opportunity for all people. We reject violence and hatred. It's our values that mandate our support of the Women's March. It's our values that demand racial justice. It's our values that tell us we must defend the rights of immigrants and help communities that have been devastated by fossil fuel pollution. As school children recite each morning in their pledge to the flag: "One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
It's clear that many of our opponents neither share nor respect the same values we do. Attacking women's rights, denying healthcare to millions, cold-heartedly expelling Dreamers and refusing refugees, ignoring climate science, turning their backs on the world, tearing down protections for people and for places—those actions speak to what they do esteem: privilege, self-interest, ignorance and greed.
When the marching begins this Saturday, the Sierra Club will be there in solidarity with women and everyone else who has come under attack during the past year. We care passionately about clean air, clean water, clean energy, public lands and gender equity, because the same basic values underlie them all. It's when all of us who share those values come together that we can make positive change happen.
To find the location of the march nearest you, visit the Women's March Anniversary Map.
I'm just one out of the million plus who traveled to Washington, DC last weekend for the Women's March on Washington. The passion and love amongst every person marching was infectious.
The signs were amazing and thoughtful. One in particular broke my heart and brought tears to my eyes. It read:
"I'm a victim of rape and sexual assaults … Planned Parenthood helped save my life ... NO SHAME!"
Just one of the many reasons I made the last minute decision to book a flight and hotel room and travel to DC. It is now put up or shut up time. It was a great day that will remain with me for the rest of my life, the first day in a long time where I felt proud to be an American. Last Saturday proved to me that we are not divided, but more united than ever. And, knowing that millions of others around the world are in this fight with us is inspiring.
Climate activists bring it all to the #WomensMarch on Washington : https://t.co/ua82z540DX (@womensmarch @sierra_magazine)— Sierra Club (@Sierra Club)1484857803.0
Last Friday, as I waited at LaGuardia airport for my flight, I saw on the TV Donald Trump being sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. It brought me back to the night that Barack Obama won the election in 2008. That night, I cried with such immense joy. I remember sitting on my couch texting back and forth with a friend, and without quoting, I believe, she said something along the lines of: "He'll need more than four to get it done." I still have the New York Times from the day after he was elected and have since pulled it out and reread the front page.
On Jan. 20, I cried again as I watched Trump being sworn in and thought to myself, there will never be another Barack or Michelle, but we need to continue their fight and what happens next is up to us.
The fire in me burned stronger as I brought myself back to the night of Nov. 8, 2016—the night of the election. That night, it felt like someone very close to me had died. As I tried to process the results over the next few days, I decided to post to Facebook and share my thoughts and feelings. I wrote:
If you haven't seen what Dan Rather wrote, please read it. They are his thoughts and feelings and have given me a glimmer of hope. I know some of you are as devastated as me, if not more, by the result. I've cried more in the past two days than I have in the past ten years, but while I did not vote for him, he is now going to be President. Although I may not like it, and I am disappointed, disgusted and heartbroken, I have made the decision—echoing Michelle Obama's words, "When they go low, we go high."
The proudest day of my life, was Friday, February 18, 2000, Presidents Day Weekend - the day I sat in a Federal courtroom in downtown Manhattan—listened for my name to be called, and for the first time, stood and pledged allegiance to the flag, with tears of immense pride and joy streaming down my face.
As American citizens, it is our duty not only as a people, but as individuals, to get behind him, and work hard to mend the divide among the people of this country. We cannot go back, we need to move forward. We are AMERICANS, after all. We are STRONG. We are FIGHTERS. We are RESILIENT. We may have hit a low, but we will process and accept this, dust ourselves off, pick ourselves up, and continue the good fight and do everything in our power to prevent the outcome of this election from defining and defeating us ... LOVE WILL ALWAYS TRUMP HATE.
Someone in Ireland said to me on Wednesday on Facebook, "Your From Ringaskiddy, Cork Girl !! Your (sp!) not a Yank". It angered me so much. But this is my truth, I'm more American than Irish. I've lived here for well over half my life, and as soon as I became a citizen, I became an American. This country has made me who I am, given me opportunities and afforded me successes that I could have only dreamed of, had I stayed in Ireland. I came to this country in 1991 with little money in my pocket, worked hard, and now I walk proudly as an American citizen and pat myself on the back every single day, for all that I have been able to accomplish. I reaped the rewards this country afforded me, and I am so very grateful for this GREAT nation. I am living proof that the AMERICAN DREAM does exist!!! While Ireland may be in my heart, the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is my home. I am proud of my heritage, will never forget where I came from, or what it took to get me where I am, but I am also proud to call myself an AMERICAN!!
What happens next is up to us. We MUST come together, support each other and be the best that we can be. STRONGER TOGETHER!!!!
Little did I know that what I wrote then would end up being my future truth, and so, here we are, a few days after a historic march on DC and throughout the world with millions joining us wearing our "Pink Pussy" hats. We are standing up for what is right. We are continuing the good fight and we will make sure that our voices are heard. To think that it was one woman who started this ripple effect is just a phenomenal thing. This movement reminds me of my two favorite quotes of all time by two men who died within mere months of each other and whom stood up and died for human rights and justice. Their words are as true today as they were on the days that each one spoke them:
"Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance" — Robert F. Kennedy
"I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I STILL HAVE A DREAM." — Martin Luther King, Jr.
It is up to us. WE ARE STRONGER TOGETHER. Let's keep this momentum going. Up next, the People's Climate March on April 29. See you there!
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
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And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
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Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.